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Arts & Culture

Rants and Raves: Ray Bradbury

Covers from 2 of Ray Bradbury's books.
Covers from 2 of Ray Bradbury's books.

Fans Pay Tribute To A Master Storyteller

Author Ray Bradbury died Tuesday at the age of 91. I asked some of his fans to remember what they loved about him.

Ray Bradbury wrote for TV ("Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Ray Bradbury Theater," "Twilight Zone") and movies ("Moby Dick"), but nothing he ever did in those mediums and nothing adapted from his work to film and television ever had the impact or artistry of his writing. Even when talented directors like Francois Truffaut adapted Bradbury, the results were underwhelming. Truffaut tried being faithful to and inspired by "Fahrenheit 451." He thought to have all the opening credits read since he was depicting a society that had banned books but his film fell flat and Oskar Werner seemed wrong for the protagonist Montag.

"The Illustrated Man" proved uneven in its film adaptation starring Rod Steiger but my parents took me to see it when I was a young child and I remember being creeped out by it. "The Martian Chronicles," collection of stories in literary form, became a TV mini-series starring Rock Hudson, and again unimpressive. So the challenge remains for some filmmaker to find the right way to capture Bradbury's genius -- to get his sense of wonder and awe, his concern for humanity and social issues, his imagination. He often resisted the term "science fiction" writer because he didn't feel that was really accurate, he seemed more comfortable with the term "speculative" fiction writer.

The Illustrated Man Trailer

Here are a few of my favorite Bradbury quotes:

Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me.After the explosion, I spent the rest of the day putting the pieces together.

I don't try to describe the future. I try to prevent it.

I spent three days a week for 10 years educating myself in the public library, and it's better than college. People should educate themselves - you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I'd written a thousand stories.

If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.
And here are some tributes from fans.

Jeff Berkwits is the former editor-in-chief of Amazing Stories magazine and a two-time Hugo Award nominee. He currently writes the "Vintage TV" column for SCI FImagazine, and is researching a book on the earliest years of science fiction television.

Ray Bradbury's literary contributions are legion, and the myriad memorial columns and obituary notices rightfully call out his speculative fiction legacy. Most even make mention of his early big-screen contributions—his 1956 adaptation of "Moby Dick," for example, or the 1950s sci-fi films based on his short stories, such as 'The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" and "It Came From Outer Space." Yet what many people often forget, or simply don't know, is the role he played in helping science fiction gain a foothold within mass media. At a time when movies were a once-a-week treat, and the most popular TV shows were wrestling and "Texaco Star Theater" (aka "The Milton Berle Show"), Bradbury's stories — adapted or written for broadcast anthologies like "Out There" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" — represent some of the best examples of that golden age of television. Even those who couldn't afford TV sets, which at the time were an expensive luxury, could revel in his fantastical storytelling via radio adaptations of his tales on dramas such as Dimension X and Suspense.

There's little question that, more than half a century ago, Bradbury, along with other genre legends like Robert Heinlein, Theodore Sturgeon, and Arthur C. Clarke, helped science fiction take its first tentative steps from low-budget pulp magazines to the mainstream. In fact, in large part we have Bradbury to thank for launching the sci-fi zeitgeist that exists today, and for that alone he deserves our everlasting gratitude. Rest in peace, Ray, and as Bob Hope, another movie and early television pioneer might have said, "thanks for the memories."
Miguel Rodriguez, festival director for Horrible Imaginings and host of Monster Island Resort Podcast:
Ray Bradbury is one of those authors whose voice was so unique and powerful that it broke free of the confines of what people call genre and into the larger human consciousness. As a young reader, his stories inspired wonder, fear, exploration, and humanity. He is a fascinating exemplar of work existing outside the artist. His vision did not always equal the interpretation of readers ("Fahrenheit 451" being a prime example), and frankly, people’s interpretation is superior to what he was trying to say, but that is a testament to the power of a legacy that will live forever. Bradbury gave us works of literary art that will continue inspire rigorous conversation and future generations of artists. That is a goal most can only dream about.

Jackie Estrada, been to every Comic-Con:

It was fabulous having Ray Bradbury as a regular guest at the early San Diego Comic-Cons in the 1970s. His talks were always inspirational--he spoke to the sense of wonder and inner child of everyone in the audience. To him life was magical, our world was magical, and the universe was magical. And he was a fan just like us, loving comics, books, movies ("King Kong"!), and all things pop culture. He helped set the stage for the scope and mission statement of Comic-Con, and he still loved coming to the show up through 2010. Comic-Con won't be the same without him.

Covers from comics that Ray Bradbury contributed to.
Covers from comics that Ray Bradbury contributed to.

Dan Whitworth, writer and uke player:

I "discovered" Ray Bradbury around the age of eleven or thereabouts, and read him ravenously throughout my teen years. I was drawn to the darkness in his stories but stuck around for the hope, which was largely untainted by schmaltz. One reason he is so appealing to readers of that age is his understanding of the young. Read "The Veldt" for one side of that coin: he knew all too well the murder in the hearts of children. For the flip side, see "Something Wicked This Way Comes," which explores the exuberance of youth coming face-to-face with the unavoidable encroachment of time, and the evil of the world. (Okay, that side was kind of dark, too.) You never felt that Bradbury had forgotten what it was like to be twelve or thirteen, or that he was faking it. He was the real McCoy.

The movie of "Something Wicked" fell somewhat short of the mark, but remains one of my favorite Bradbury adaptations, with fine performances by Jonathan Pryce and Jason Robards. I've always been a fan of John Huston's "Moby Dick," which was scripted by Bradbury, and the EC Comics adaptations of Bradbury's stories remain things of great beauty.
Shane Flores:
Ray Bradbury was perhaps my first favorite writer. I can still remember those initial tremors of wild untamed wonder, which reside at the heart of all fantasy / science fiction, that reveal to us that the world is vastly stranger and more wonderful than everything we know, and that it is just around every corner. Ray Bradbury introduced me to that. But what I remember most, what persists, is the vigorous sense of human decency he grounded it all in. Ray Bradbury was a great human being first, and a great writer second, that was the secret to his success, and i will always be glad he was my first teacher.

Here's my appearance on KUSI talking about Bradbury.